Humans may have found their way to present-day Argentina as early as 10,000 BCE; however, with the exception of the northwestern region, this land long remained largely uninhabited. In the 13th and 14th centuries the Inca empire`s sphere of influence extended into what is now Mendoza. In 1516 the Spaniards discovered the estuary now called Rio de la Plata, meaning silver river (in accordance with the conquistadores´ mistaken belief that it held large reserves of precious metals), and proceeded to found the city of Buenos Aires along its banks in 1536. During the era of Spanish rule that followed, the indigenous population of Patagonia in particular managed to successfully evade subjugation for a long time, aided by the areas relative lack of desirable raw materials. Argentina gained independence through the May Revolution of 1810, drawing inspiration from the American and French Revolutions. The country´s modern history has been a rollercoaster: one of the world´s wealthiest nations in the 1970s, Argentina fell into bankruptcy in 2001. The population has found innovative ways to adapt to these changing conditions, demonstrating remarkable creativity.

Viticulture in Argentina

Though it was established by European settlers, Argentina´s viticulture was built on a foundation left behind by the Incas – their sophisticated irrigation system using meltwater from the Andes. This groundwork allowed for viticulture to develop at a remarkably rapid pace. The fact that, although begun by missionaries, viticulture`s expansion was a largely secular undertaking, meant that by the end of the 16th century the foundation for commercial viticulture had already been laid. European grapes found their way to Argentina in the 19th century, brought by immigrants. The Malbec is especially noteworthy among such European grapes: while it was little appreciated in its native France, in Argentina it came to be the powerhouse it is today—a wine for which Argentina is now famous throughout the world. Other specialties of Argentinian viticulture include Torrontés and Bonarda. The former, a floral white varietal from the Salta region, is a natural cross between Criolla Chica (related to the Chilean País) and Muscatel, and is used in making many an aperitif around the world. Torrontés also could be seen as Argentina`s gift to Asian gastronomy. Bonarda arrived on the scene as part of the wave of migration from northern Italy at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, experts are still not in total agreement about the exact origins of the variety. One theory connects Bonarda to the Savoyard variety Douce Noir, while other sources see it as Bonarda Piemontese, which has no relation to the "Bonarda del Oltrepó Pavese", which is widespread in Lombardy. However, in-depth discussion with Argentinian winemakers and a closer examination of migration seem to point toward the Piedmontese varietal. But what does it really matter – the fact is, Argentina is now the world market leader in Bonarda, and the important thing is the wine itself, which simply spreads warmth and good cheer!

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